Welcome to A&A. There are 13 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.|
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A&A #275 reviews
Avenpitch's blend of new wave derring-do and modern guitar crunch makes the band one of Omega Point's most accessible acts. Indeed, I don't know anyone who wouldn't succumb to the pleasures of this album.
I suppose it does help to have come of age in the 1980s, but remember: the 80s were the last time the "Top 40" mattered. Radio splintered, audiences splintered and music went to hide in all sorts of segregated corners.
Yes, yes, the 80s were hardly a time of purity and light. But shit, when you distill pop music down to catchy guitar riffs and sprightly keyboard bits, well, I think you're on to something. Avenpitch is more than that. These folks are absofreakinbrilliant.
Shiny, thrashing, gorgeous and loud. Imagine a combination of Judas Priest (the keyboard albums), Devo, Kraftwerk, the Human League and Buzzcocks. And then distill those ideas to their pure pop essences. Ahh, Avenpitch. Nectar of the gods. I've loved these folks for a while, and this album utterly sears my soul. I'd sell it to Avenpitch in a second.
El Aviador Dro
A hefty retrospective from this Spanish electronic outfit. Eighteen songs from 28 years. Maybe this isn't hefty enough.
It definitely isn't. The pieces here are playful and engaging. My high school Spanish isn't good enough to follow along perfectly, but I think I'm safe in saying the music is what counts here. And the tunes are great.
Yes, you have to like weird, vaguely atonal electronic jams. I mean, that's what these folks play. Unlike Kraftwerk, though, the songs are generally tight and short. More of a pop structure, even if the melodies do take flight now and again.
More new wave for the new century--even if most of this is from the old one. El Aviador Dro has been making cool music for almost three decades. I think this disc proves that us folks in America ought to be hearing a lot more of it.
The Bank Robbers
Tomorrow Belongs to Me
Extremely earnest, nearly prehistoric-sounding emo. Strident guitars, anthemic verses (much less choruses) and group vocals abounding. Takes me back...with pleasure.
I didn't know bands wanted to sound like this anymore. Or maybe I'm way out of touch with the mainstream and this is current "thing." Quite possible. In any case, the tight production sound on these raucous performances locks in something special.
The Bank Robbers don't screw around. They give their songs lengthy titles (see "The Truth Is Rarely Pure, and Never Simple" and "Here's Your Song You've Never Wanted") and don't mess around with silly concepts such as metaphor. This is as straightforward as it gets (that's the "earnest" thing, I guess). I can appreciate that.
And it just sounds so good. Very sharp production, but the playing and singing is just ragged enough to keep me smiling. The Bank Robbers save all their complexity for the music, and that works very well.
The Capstan Shafts
The Sleeved and Granddaughters of the Blacklist
Two full-length efforts from Dean Wells and whoever else might be part of the Capstan Shafts. Wells is a somewhat mysterious figure, cranking out an EP every month or two (you can scour my archives to find any number of reviews in the last year) in handmade envolopes to trolls of the underground like me. The songs are short (generally limited to two minutes or less), but there are many more tracks than usual on these two albums.
Blacklist contains 20 songs, and the sound is very similar to prvious efforts: lo-fi to the extreme. I will say, though, that the levels aren't quite as pegged as usual, so there isn't quite so much distortion around the edges. That lets the songs work a bit more of their charm. I like that, myself.
As for Euridice, well, it only makes sense that if Wells were to associate with a label, it would be one like Kittridge that specializes in artists who have lengthy self-released catalogs. The mastering is much better--this stuff is hardly lo-fi. The songs jump out from the speakers...and they really benefit from the treatment. A lot of folks reference GBV when talking about Capstan Shafts, but the sonic improvement here puts me in more of a Brian Jonestown Massacre mood.
The Kittridge album is superior, if only for the better sound. I've always thought Wells's songs were great, and Euridice proves it. Sometimes you really do have to hear what you're missing to appreciate the difference. And boy, were we missing a lot.
The Lost Soul Man 2xCD
The term "soul music" means many things to many people. Most folks can agree on Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. After that, well, you get in trouble.
Geater Davis is from the second generation. He uses plenty of rock and blues in his songs, and he's not afraid to shift from Muscle Shoals-esque horns to electric piano jams. What carries through every song is his utterly pure voice. Listen for two seconds, and there's no doubt he's a true soul man.
He's something of a growler and a wailer, not unlike Edwin Starr or, more correctly, Bobby Womack. These are songs of love and loss--and more loss than love, to be sure. If Davis had been 20 years older, he would have been a blues man. His songs still retain many blue touches, but by and large he remains committed to the soul side of the tracks.
These songs date from 1970 until Davis's death in 1984. As the liners note, he was making his music during a time that didn't want to hear it. If he'd managed to last just a few more years, he might've seen some daylight toward the end of the 80s, when soulful bluesmen like Robert Cray scraped some success. Nonetheless, we've got the songs here. And they're something to behold.